In the aftermath of several large fire
claims caused by “casual welding work”, insurers are looking to improve risk
management practices by strictly enforcing the use of so-called “hot work
permits”. Although hot work permits have been around for some time, the
approach to these has tended to be somewhat lax. However, things have changed
A hot works permit can be
issued by the health and safety officer of the business or another senior
person and is essentially just confirmation that certain specified risk
management steps have been taken before any welding or other work with an open
flame takes place.
Protection against fires is not only good practice, it’s also a requirement of
the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
These vary in their detail but in general
include steps such as:
Ensuring that the
person operating the equipment has been fully instructed in the safe operation
and use of the equipment and in the hazards that may arise from its use
surrounding area of combustible materials
Making sure that
appropriate re extinguishers are available nearby
Checking that the
work is properly supervised
from the owner of the building
of communicating (connected) buildings or neighbourhood buildings (or both)
Ensuring that leads
and electrode holders are effectively insulated and that there are no leaking
gas pipes nearby
Making sure that
effective ventilation is provided and maintained
that at least one other person who has been properly instructed to assist in
the case of an emergency is and remains in attendance during operations
The permits are not required for businesses
that ritually have open flames as part of their regular activities as it is
assumed that their premises will have been suitably protected. The problem
really arises where causal or ad hoc work is done. In this case it is likely that
this would take place in conditions which are not as well protected
While some insurers rely on their general
policy wording, which requires insureds to take suitable precautions to limit
the likelihood of losses, others are addressing the issue more specifically,
even including warranty wording in some cases.
Of course, the important aspect of hot work
permits is not the permit itself, given the irony that if a fire does are up
the permit is likely to be destroyed anyway, but rather the risk management
precautions that are taken, using the permit as a “checklist” to ensure that
the required actions are taken.
Insurers are also taking steps to better
protect themselves against fire claims and are looking to insureds to take
additional precautions as well.
For example, it would be expected that
action be taken to avoid the possibility of a re starting in the first place.
This means extra attention to staff training, doubling up on re risk measures
and added precautions around electrical maintenance, open measures, smoking
controls, stacking, waste control (especially flammable material), etc. Where
appropriate, adequate re breaks should be strictly maintained.
Insurers have also stressed the need for
documented proof of ongoing assessments/tests on sprinkler systems where
applicable, to show that they at least remain in working condition. Extra
precautions are usually advised in plant where special fire risks may be
present – either due to the particular construction of the building, the nature
of the work undertaken on site, or where highly flammable or combustible goods
are stored on site.
Perhaps surprisingly, some large cold-storage units can also present an
additional risk because of the material used in their construction.
Additional precautions have become extremely
important in the drought-stricken Western Cape, where limitations on water
supplies mean that other precautions, such as doubling up on hand-held fire
extinguishers or installing water tanks, are suggested. This also applies in other
areas where water pressure may be low.
For a copy of a Hot works Template, that can assist you in your business, simply visit our website and leave your details.
Article by Peter Atkinson
Intermediaries Association of South Africa) national technical portfolio